Summit Wine & Food Festival 2011

by Elizabeth Palmer Starnes

Elizabeth Palmer Starnes and Marita Lynn

This weekend, the third annual Summit Wine and Food Festival took place at the Grand Hotel in Summit, which hosted dozens of impressive chefs, sommeliers, and guest speakers.

On Friday night, the festival kicked off with the Gala Tasting, where restaurants, chefs, and winemakers set up tables to showcase their signature dishes and most celebrated wines. Guests could wander around the Grand Ballroom and sample to their heart’s content, eating and drinking their fill. I myself made it my mission to try something from each table, and ended up doubling back to some of my favorites. The hallway adjacent to the ballroom housed several

cocktail stations where guests could watch drinks like cherry tomato mojitos made to order, and a chocolate table stacked with delicious flavors like pistachio, caramel and sea salt. This event provided the perfect platform to get up close and personal with the chefs and sommeliers of the weekend, and to talk with them about the food and wine they’re passionate about.


Saturday offered wine tastings, seminars, book signings, cooking demonstrations, and the “Sommelier Showdown” luncheon, where four brave sommeliers performed a blind tasting in front of the guests, narrowing each wine down to the type, country, region, and even the year it was bottled. Each wine was pared with an appropriate dish, and everything together was balanced and delicious. Chef Marita Lynn prepared the dessert at the luncheon, making her Lucuma Mousse with Pisco Chocolate Sauce. Lynn is New Jersey’s own Peruvian chef, helping to popularize Peruvian cuisine, which has been touted as the new “It” cuisine by no less then Bon Appétit Magazine. Lynn is also currently working to bring healthy, local, and organic food to private schools in the area, slowly but surely changing their palates and diets for the better.


On Saturday night, the hotel hosted the Festival’s signature event. The six-course Gala Dinner featured dishes prepared by renowned chefs from around the country. Each course was served perfectly pared with international wines, selected by the world’s foremost sommeliers. My personal favorite was the slow roasted tenderloin of Painted Hills beef, warm summer compote of New Jersey sweet corn, beefsteak tomato, roasted garlic, and thyme, prepared by legendary New Jersey chef Dennis Foy.

Sunday offered cheese and beer tastings, more wine seminars, and a preview of Hollywood star and world-class sommelier Charlie Arturaola’s upcoming film “The Way of Wine.” Mr. Artutaola is as entertaining as he is knowledgeable, and his film is sure to be a hit. It was such an honor to be able to attend such an amazing culinary weekend, and I’ll definitely be preordering my tickets for the festival next year- they sell out quick!